01-21-2012, 08:45 PM
The broiling hot Nevada summer faded when October arrived, bringing cooler nights and temperate winds. Criss Angel barely noticed the changing of the seasons, busy as he was with his live show and television series. In fact, if he had stepped outside the Luxor, he would not have even noticed; there were no fall colors on the trees, no tang of fall in the air, no frost on the windows of his cars, nothing like autumn back in his hometown in Long Island, New York. The only reminders were the shops preparing for Hallowe'en festivities with garish decorations in their windows, and advertisements for parties in the clubs and bars.
To sell more tickets for Believe, the management offered a special twenty percent discount on admission for Hallowe'en night. It would cut into profits, but with the sluggish economy anything was worth a try. Hallowe'en was one of Las Vegas's premiere party nights--the streets would be jammed with revelers in costume and makeup. Criss' brand of surrealism was tailormade for such a night, so fingers were crossed that October thirty-first would make up for the past several months' below-par box office take.
During one of his rare moments to himself, Criss kicked back with a copy of the Las Vegas Sun to catch up on world events. Showbusiness tended to isolate celebrities to some degree, so Criss made it a point to either read the paper or watch the news once a day to keep connected with the real world. It was too easy to insulate himself in his luxury suite and rock star lifestyle, ignoring the problems ordinary people faced in the troubled economy nowadays; that dream he had last summer had been a wake-up call for him to face reality and do something about it.
The money he raised from the sale of the Spyder had been handled with all the secrecy of a covert government operation. His accountant made out the checks under strict orders to keep all the donations anonymous, using bank checks with no reference to Criss Angel or MindFreak Productions upon them. He wasn't ashamed of giving to the homeless, not at all--he just didn't want to make his philanthropy a big deal. Besides, if word got out that he was aiding the homeless, thousands more would be crashing his office, begging for handouts. The quieter this was handled, the better for all concerned.
Criss set aside the world news section with a sigh. Nothing had changed; there was still war, poverty, and suffering everywhere. Same with the state and local news. The paltry three hundred and seventy-five grand had done little to alleviate the problems he read about. Better than nothing, he conceded. He picked up the entertainment section, hoping it would cheer him up. Who knew? Maybe he'd come across a positive review of Believe in the Arts column.
What he saw astonished, puzzled and enraged him at the same time. There, in the Names and Faces column, was a photo of the guy who had purchased the Spyder at the auction last summer, along with an article bragging about his latest purchases and describing his latest fling in Hawai'i.
Criss read through the article. The man, Nigel Sweeps, was Canada's most notoious billionaire, owning one of the biggest technological industries in North America. It was his company which produced the parts for the Canadarm, the mile-long hook-crane satellite launched into space back in the Nineties. Nigel was a brilliant, savvy, and ruthless businessman, second only to Sir Alan Sugar of Britain when it came to giving someone the axe or buying up a business. He was also a notorious womanizer and a profigate spendthrift, shelling out six or even seven figures for expensive sports cars, prime real estate and even a private yacht the size of a battleship.
It wasn't the freewheeling spending that got to Criss--he'd been guilty of that himself at times. It was the statement Sweeps made about the Spyder, bragging of how he had purchased it from Criss Angel for a "mere" three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars at "some auction" in Las Vegas. What was particularly galling was that he had blabbed to the press about the money going to homeless relief, so the purchase of his new car could be deducted as a charitable contribution, thanks to "my friend, Criss Angel".
Criss threw down the paper in disgust. He wanted to spit. I should have kept my mouth shut around that guy! he reproached himself. How the hell was I to know he was some big billionaire from Canada? I wanted to keep it quiet, but no, that (bleeper) had to go and broadcast it to the world! Well, it's too late now. God, I'm such an (bleep)hole!
Springs lined up his shot on the green, set his ball on the tee, positioned himself, raised his club and swung it in a perfect arc, striking the ball at just the right spot to send it flying to the fifth hole. The tiny ball, a mere speck in the distance, bounced twice off the smooth, velvetey green and rolled to a halt mere inches from the hole. Springs smiled. It wasn't a hole in one, but it was close. It had been almost ten years since Springs swung a golf club, but he still had it. It was like riding a bicycle--once you learned, you never forgot.
Springs climbed into his golf cart and rode to the green. He liked the new carts the course provided; they were Cadillacs compared to the jalopies he used to drive when he went golfing with The Guys, right down to the cupholders for drinks. Why the hell no one thought of that when they first came out, he'd never know. Now if there was a device to shave a few points from his score, that would be sweet!
It was good to get out and golf again. The Baja Golf Course had been one of his favorites back in the day. He and The Guys would spend many an afternoon shooting holes and boozing it up in the grill room. Mick, God rest him, came here often just to get away from Tina and her constant nagging. Poor guy, Springs thought, getting involved with that little blond pack of poison. What the hell did he see in her in the first place?
Well, now he was in a better place, Springs consoled himself as he drove the cart to the hole. Pity he couldn't say the same for Tina, he amended with a smirk. Still, he would have welcomed Mick's company at that moment. He would have welcomed anyone's company, as a matter of fact. The only problem with being the last surviving member of The Guys of Glitter Gulch was that it was pretty damn lonely. All of his friends and aquaintances of his generation were either dead, dying or so senile they didn't know what day it was. He wasn't what he used to be, granted, but he still had his health in some areas; he was on his second stomach, and his nicotine-scarred lungs were functioning at half-capacity, but Danny Springer still had all of his marbles.
If only he knew how to use a computer. Back in the day, computers were room-sized behemoths reserved for the military and the govenment, and only college-educated eggheads knew how to use them. Nowadays, everyone and their Uncle Harry had one in their homes. Hell, even preschoolers were using the damn things! But they came too late for someone of Springs' generation. Still, he had heard of email and chat-rooms and blogging (whatever the hell that was), and saw these ads for Internet dating services on the tube. He remembered computer dating services back in the Sixties and Seventies, but he had dismissed it as so much BS. No machine could ever replace the human heart when it came to love, he had thought at the time. But now couples could communicate more or less directly on their laptops or whatever the same way they would spend hours on the phone. Welcome to the twenty-first century, Springs said to himself.
He stopped the cart and got out. He chose his putter from his bag in the back and walked over to the ball. A slight tap with just the right force sent the ball rolling neatly into the hole. Springs was satisfied. If only he had someone to share it with, though. Golfing by yourself wasn't much fun; he needed to be in a foursome, or at least a pair. The more he dwelled on his solitude, the more the modern wonder of the Internet seemed more appealing. Maybe he could give it a shot, he thought. Get a book or take a class. Time hung so heavily on his hands now that he had finished his memoirs. But could a man his age learn something so complex as computers? Like the man said, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.
Or could you?
Well, it was worth a shot, anyway, he thought. Maybe it wasn't as hard as he thought; if kids could use them, why not an old man like himself? Who knew? Maybe he's get himself a pen pal or whatever they called them these days. And there were Websites with every subject under the sun; maybe he could start a Website of his own, dedicated to The Guys of Glitter Gulch. With all these CSI shows on the tube, and series like The Sopranos, it'd pique someone's interest. And if he decided it wasn't for him, then the hell with it, it wasn't any skin off his nose. Yeah, why the hell not?
Springs put his putter away and drove to the next hole, making a mental note to look into computer training. He began to feel better about himself, but computers could wait, he decided. Never start anything you can't finish, his old man had taught him, God rest his soul. He'd finish his game, then check out the computer thing after a quick visit to the bar and much-needed Manhattan.
Casey was free for the afternoon with Mr. Springer gone to the golf course. Her mother, Sharon, had left as well to check out business courses at some local community college. It was a balmy day in Vegas, so she decided to do a little sightseeing. She had lived in the municipality all her life, but with school and later work, she never got to really enjoy what The Entertainment Capital of the World had to offer. Today was as good a day as any, so she hopped on the bus and headed for The Strip for an afternoon of fun in the sun.
She treated herself to a strawberry ice-cream cone and strolled down Fremont Street, craning her neck to watch the digitally-produced images roll across the arched dome over her head. Distracted, she failed to see where she was going, and she collided into something, sending strawberry ice-cream into her face and up her nostrils. Startled at first, then embarrassed, she tried to clean herself as best she could with the tiny paper napkin which came with her cone. She was even more embarrassed when she looked up and discovered the something was in fact someone, and that someone was none other than Criss Angel himself.
Casey was as flustered as the day she first saw him in a towel in his suite on her first week on the job as hotel housekeeper. "Oh, my God!" she sputtered through a layer of pink mush. "I'm so sorry! I didn't see you there!" She tried to wipe off the ice-cream from his shirt but failed miserably. "Are you all right? I didn't mean to--"
Criss laughed in his own embarrassment, not angry in the least. In the shock of the impact, he didn't recognize Casey at first. "Hey, it's okay, really," he said, pulling out his bandana to wipe off the ice-cream from his shirt. "It was an accident. I didn't see you, either." He gave her the bandana. "Here," he said.
Casey took the bandana and wiped her blushing face with it. Once the pink coating had been removed, Criss suddenly recognized her. "Casey?" he said, "that you?"
Casey nodded. "I-I was just seeing the sights, you know, and, well..." She held up the crushed, melting cone growing sticky in her hand. "I'm really sorry. I should have been looking where I was going." She looked at Criss' soiled shirt. "I'd be glad to pay for the cleaning for your shirt." she offered.
"What? This old thing?" Criss said, tugging at his grey t-shirt. "No problem!" And with one quick yank he removed his shirt, leaving him stripped to the waist save for his massive collection of pendants. Casey flushed an even deeper red when she saw him half-naked in public. The squeals and cheers from a group of girls nearby didn't ease her discomfort, either. One of the girls, barely out of her teens, fetched some paper napkins soaked in water from a local vendor for Criss to clean himself up with, all but ignoring Casey. Criss accepted the soggy napkins with thanks and wiped himself down. This inocuous act seemed to tittilate the girls even more for some reason infathomable to Casey. After a brief autograph/photo session, Criss and Casey walked along Fremont street, talking casually.
"So, how ya been?" Criss asked.
"Good," Casey replied. "You?"
"Good. So, what are you doing here on Fremont Street?"
"Oh, just taking in the local color," Casey replied airily. "You?"
"I'm doing a shoot for the series," Criss explained. "I'm just taking a break right now." He stopped short. "By the way," he said, recalling something, "did you ever get that inheritance?"
Casey nodded. "Yeah, but Dad tried to sue me for it."
Criss was appalled. "Your dad tried to sue you?"
"Yeah," Casey replied somberly. "But the judge ruled that he and my brother, Benny, would only get two thousand dollars--and then only if they found jobs in thirty days."
"Did they find any jobs?"
"Well, Dad had a telemarketing job for a while, but he lost it," Casey explained. "Benny, on the other hand, finally found his life's calling in some 'adult' book store called the Book Nook. Ever hear of it?"
"No, not really," Criss replied. "I'm not into that (bleep)."
"Me neither, but Benny loves it. He thinks it's the greatest job in the world, but he just spends all day watching the DVDs they got there. I don't know what kind of 'work' he does, but I'm not going there to find out."
Criss shrugged. "Hey, if it makes him happy..."
Casey shrugged in return.
"Well, I got to get back to shooting," Criss said. "Nice running into you again."
Casey could not help but laugh. "I ran into you, remember?"
Criss grinned comically. "So you did."
They shook hands amiably. Casey felt something pressed into her palm as she grasped Criss' hand. She opened it and found a five dollar bill. "Get yourself another ice-cream cone," he said, smiling.
Casey could only stare after him in bewilderment as Criss slung his ice-cream soiled shirt over his bare shoulder and strode back to where his camera crew was waiting. You know, she said to herself, for a famous celebrity, he's a pretty nice guy! Anyone else would have bitten my head off for getting ice-cream all over his clothes, but he just blew it off! Of all the famous people I could have embarrassed myself in front of, I'm glad it was him!